About Silves Archaeological Museum
Silves Archaeological Museum (Museu Municipal de Arqueologia de Silves) offers an insight into the history of Silves, Portgual, and its surrounding area, with a collection spanning from prehistory to the 17th century.
The building in which Silves Archaeological Museum is located is also of interest, having been a 19th century home and the site where a Moorish water reservoir was uncovered, available to see today.
Silves Archaeological Museum history
The Silves region was inhabited first during the Paleolithic era, whose people erected monoliths around the landscape. The town itself was founded during Roman occupation of the Lusitania province, although the region was also settled by Indo-European tribes including the Celtici and later the Visigoths. Silves became part of the Umayyad Emirate of Córdoba after 713 when the Moors invaded Iberia, but was reconquered in 1189 under King Sancho I of Portugal.
Sancho ordered the fortification of the city, a castle being built upon earlier defences (possibly Roman or Visigoth). However, Al-Andalus, the Muslim ruled part of the peninsular, sent raiders to steal booty and slaves, and the city eventually fell once again to the Muslim rulers. It was not until 1242 when the Grand Master of the Order of Santiago retook Silves in 1242. During the 19th century, Silves was an important centre of the Portuguese cork industry.
The Archaeological Museum was opened to the public in 1990, built around the 18 metre-deep and 4 metre-wide Poço Cisterna Almóada, a well uncovered during 18th century excavations. The well dated back to the Almohad Muslim period of the 12th and 13th centuries and was made from Silves sandstone. The Poço Cisterna Almóada was also accompanied by a helix staircase with 3 windows, ensuring easy access to water – rare features in Arab architecture.
The museum’s intention was to display archaeological finds from the city and surrounding area, particularly the castle and Cerro da Rocha Branca site, highlighting Silves’ long history.
Silves Archaeological Museum today
Open all day, visitors to the brightly coloured museum can view artefacts within 4 sections or chronological periods: pre-history, the Roman period, the Moorish period and the Portuguese until the 17th century. Particular highlights include the Poço Cisterna Almóada, but also the Iron Age funeral monoliths with their Southwest Peninsular inscriptions – considered the region’s earliest examples of the writing.
Getting to Silves Archaeological Museum
If driving, Silves Archaeological Museum is located off the N124 in the town centre. There is nearby parking at Parque de estacionamento. For those using public transport, Silves Piscinas bus stop (7 minutes walk away) is on bus routes 17, 31 and 113.